Monday, January 08, 2007

The Serenity Index

In a blog I read regularly, the question of success was raised. I got me thinking about what success really means. It is, like so many other arbitrary assessments, a very personal definition, but one that has some universality associated with it. How do you define success? Is it in terms of title, accolade, prestige, wealth, influence, etc.? Does any one of these denominators in and of itself define success? I believe it does. I believe success is situation specific and that even in the midst of failure, success can be found.

Financial success can be fleeting. It has come and gone in my life more than once. It has mirrored my serenity and it has not. I used to think that being independently wealthy would make me happy. I no longer measure success this way. If the question was one of only financial security, then no, I am not yet comfortable – but it will come. Oddly enough, although I would not consider myself successful financially at the moment, I sure wouldn’t say I am a failure either. Perhaps success is not the opposite of failure.

Today, I feel as though I am successful as a father. However, fatherhood, like life, has many aspects to it. I am not as successful as I would like to be in all areas of fatherhood, but taken in total, I am definitely not failing. And I have had my moments where success at fatherhood seemed to be eluding me as well. As it turns out, it is never too late and in at least one aspect of fatherhood, I have been ultimately successful – unconditional love.

Socially my success today is proven out by a solid group of very good friends. I have had to leave many friends behind at various times in my life, but recently due to many factors, not the least of which was a move to a new city, all of my day-to-day friends are relatively new. It has taken a little bit of time to rebuild a social network – it always has for me and my (ahem) age doesn’t help – but today I have a home. Moreover, if I had to do it again, I know I could.

My success as a student is measured primarily in GPA. In this respect, I have been very successful. However, it’s only a number – one that can be manipulated if one so desired. Cheating is perhaps the most obvious means of establishing an artificially high GPA, but there are others. The bottom line is that success for me is not what my GPA is, but rather what it represents. In my case, it means I have participated in my own education so much that I have earned those grades. The success is in the absorption of knowledge and experience.

On a more abstract level, success can be defined in terms of contentedness. Happiness is a good measure of success. But how does one measure happiness? Is there a “serenity index?” It is a relative term to be sure and to a certain extent it must be measured against one’s own experience. To know happiness, must I know sadness? To know peace, must I know conflict? To know serenity, do I have to experience chaos? I don’t know about anyone else, but for me, it appears to be so.

A friend of mine recently told the story of a friend of hers that was complaining how boring her life had become. She had escaped the chaos and instability it once was. She had taken steps to ”straighten” her life out and was apparently successful in doing so. She was experiencing success but complained to my friend how boring her life was. My friend, who had escaped from the same lifestyle years earlier, told her what must’ve been a revelation to her. “It’s not boredom, stupid, it’s lack of drama.”

It’s personal, it’s perception and it’s relative. To me, it sounds like success.


Catherine said...

I count success as a parent by the fact that our adult children still like to be around us. And lack of drama becomes more attractive as you get older.
Michele sent me

Unknown said...

Good food for thought! I'll need to think about this one for a while.

Good morning!!

Helene said...

suc·cess (sk-ss)(according to
1. The achievement of something desired, planned, or attempted2.

a. The gaining of fame or prosperity.
b. The extent of such gain.
3. One that is successful: The plan was a success.
4. Obsolete A result or an outcome

It is such an everchanging thing to me. Sometimes I feel like a success and other times like a loser. So perhaps, in my humble opinion, success is the preception... not the actual achievement.

Anonymous said...


If I'm correct, you read the serenity index on my blog. Glad it inspired you.

I really like what you wrote here, especially what your friend said about boredom vs. lack of drama.

Marisol said...

Thanks so much for the thought provoking post.

I too have found that my definition of success has changed with time and circumstances. There have been moments of achievement in my life that have served only to prove that what I'd thought I was passionate about, proved not to be real served to prove the theory stated in your opening paragraph...success is situation specific.

At the end of my life I hope to be able to look back and see that my successes outweighed my failures.

Looking forward to your next post...


Belizegial said...

Congrats on the A's you scored in the Fall semester. Keep it up!

On the Serenity Index, I fall somewhere in the middle. For all of my professional life, I have dabbled here and there. Now, I am looking for stability. The less drama I have, the better for me. It's tough hanging steady in one post, but I am definitely up to the challenge.

Single parenthood has been challenging, but the rewards far outweigh the difficulties. Again, I am hanging tough.

In kind, I am serene because I choose to be.


MaR said...

Michele sent me your way.
Your post gives me a lot to think about...
I admire adult college students, a friend of mine graduated from law school at age 47.
Wishing you much success!

Snaggle Tooth said...

I also count myself successful in the arenas of single-parenthood, n higher-ed. It's definately a relative scale, changing with daily perceptions.
(I don't get bored... I get rested!) My lil sis tho- needs alot of excitement-
kate- "gain" hmmm, good blanket n short description...
"Serenity index," hafta check out that one soon-

Lady Prism said...

success is when you can eat a slice of chocolate cake and not feel guilty..yup!..

success is when you look forward to creeping in under the covers coz' you know darn well a real goodnight sleep is ahead ov' ya'...

success is waking up in the morning then smiling...coz' it's a Saturday ( and you thought for a moment it was Friday..) and you can snuggle back in..

success is looking a lighted MArlboro light in the eye for one last time then flicking it over a bridge..( did that 5 years ago..)

success is lookin' at yourself in the mirror and saying.."you've come a long way baby.."..then picking up that pair of socks some guy you've shagged with for almost 18 years dumped on the floor...

success is knowing success is relative...and that's that...

but'..I dunno' anyone named Michele..